Official oppression charges dropped against Burke, Guedry

January 21, 2015

Law & Courts

The official oppression charges against two Beaumont police officers — David Todd Burke and James Cody Guedry — stemming from a 2007 altercation with Derrick Newman were dismissed at the end of last year, Jefferson County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Pat Knauth confirmed on Wednesday.

Veteran officer Burke (since retired) was charged with wrongfully using his custom-made police baton to strike an unarmed Newman 13 times during a late-night traffic stop in high-crime part of Beaumont on Aug. 24, 2007.

Guedry, who was a rookie officer in training at the time, had been giving Newman a pat-down search when a struggle began between the two men, the cause of which was disputed. Guedry was charged with wrongfully using his Taser twice against Newman at the instruction of his training officer.

[For more background on the case and a link to the video of the incident, click here.]

The Class A misdemeanor charge against Burke was dismissed from the 252nd District Court on Dec. 30, Knauth said. The following day, the charge against Guedry was dismissed from the Criminal District Court.

As part of the dismissal agreement with Burke’s attorneys, the former officer stipulated that he would not seek employment as a peace officer in the state of Texas for ten years, Knauth said. There was no similar stipulation for Guedry, who remains on the Beaumont police force.

Knauth said the separate agreements came after Newman approached prosecutors last year to discuss dropping the charges, some time after his civil rights violations lawsuit against the two officers was tried in a Beaumont federal court. After some period of time, Newman signed an affidavit stating he did not want to continue with the criminal prosecutions, Knauth said.

Efforts to reach attorneys for Burke and Newman for comment were unsuccessful.

After Burke’s first trial in May 2010 ended in a hung jury and mistrial, then-state District Judge Layne Walker ordered a change of venue to Bexar County. That September, a jury convicted Burke of the misdemeanor offense, and Walker imposed a probated sentence of 90 days in state jail.

Burke appealed, and in June 2012 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial, based on jury selection issues.

In December 2010, another Jefferson County jury convicted Guedry of official oppression. Later, state District Judge John Stevens granted Guedry a motion for a new trial, based on claims of ineffective counsel. That decision was upheld by the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont.

After several pretrial appeals, Newman’s civil rights violations lawsuit against Buke and Guedry began on January 30, 2014, more than six years after the original incident. On February 1, the five-man, four-woman jury found that Guedry did not violate Newman’s rights but that Burke did. They awarded Newman just over $40,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Burke is appealing the verdict.

UPDATE:  In February 2015, after the criminal charges were dropped, Burke and his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On Feb. 9, the appeals court issued a mandate, effectively closing the case.

Find links to full coverage of the criminal and civil cases here.

Copyright © 2015 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.

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About Ken Fountain

I'm a journalist and writer in Houston, Texas. My areas of specialty inxfcgclude law and courts, local government and industry and environmental issues. You can follow me on Twitter at @twitter.com/kenfountain and email me at kenfountain1 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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